Saturday, September 14, 2019

NO BIG DEAL

So many dis-
orienting
things have happened already

that I don't think twice now
when I walk past the sunflower
on the edge of the sidewalk

which was just a stalk
yesterday morning.
A slight roil of wind—

no big deal—
blowing another little
swirl inside the mind. What about

the gardens of churning stars
we used to see as
children—didn't we? Whose big idea

was that,
I wonder—what dizzy distortions
of kids were those?

Friday, September 13, 2019

ORTHOGONAL

It's what they call
an elegant (read: deceptively
simple) equation:

a loss
over time
equals

a sort of distributed ratio
known as losing;
e.g. a knot

becoming such
and such a size—
and me

still waiting
around independently
for its loosening.

I just want to tell you
how much I've
enjoyed your company,

but even that
I can't seem to
do yet.

Which at
least makes
more intuitive sense:

can't divide two
prior things
and expect

to get something completely
new, now
can you?

Thursday, September 12, 2019

THE PLAN

Those lights in the sky—
we are told
to call them stars—they burn
though every last atom
of matter in their bodies
until they die.

Until the slag at the center
of their hearts
explodes. Until
their starving invisible ghosts
go sucking and tearing
searing holes in the universe.

But it's alright
we tell ourselves. It's okay
we'll say to someone else
who loves us—this
has always been the plan. They
are supposed to do that.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

GRATUITOUS

          —September 11, 2019


Would anybody
today in the world trade
no hope
for no despair? I would. I wouldn't
care whether
the two were equivalent

either. Tomorrow
is such a gratuitous balm—
I mean
it seems to cost nothing
to keep
slathering on. But

the past—
feels so jagged
crystalline
complex—so inevitable
to me when
that's what we keep calling it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

THE ONE

Like a sunflower
that follows every
moment of the sun—I

am a slave
with no brain
who cannot even

see you're the one
in charge.


Monday, September 9, 2019

OBBLIGATO

When I say this,
does the papery half-
moon make sense to you?

Could an inkblot
cloud oozing dirty across it
cause it

to make any more
or any less?
My guess is

they were wrong
about a universe
made of grammar; but maybe

there is
still a hierarchical order,
a syntax

of all the hidden things out there,
which—and here's where
I always struggle

to complete that thought,
and where you continue
to find it

so interesting,
even though by now it isn't
at all unusual.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

THE END OF THINGS

Each day, I'm so busy—
I think 
and I think, until every
niggling thought is gone. Believe me, 
it's not easy

constantly racing 
to the bottom 
of plots; so furious 
to get to the end of things. And yet 
the nights

are so empty—nothing left 
in these 
drained containers 
except: that inhospitable vacuum  
of memory.


Saturday, September 7, 2019

A POEM, NOT A NOVEL

Look—I don't want to
tell you my life story; I am not
curious about yours or
what exactly happened back there.
I just want to take
one minute of one day and
make it a little bit
sweeter to have wasted:
one nervous kiss, half
a cigarette, a morsel of chocolate—
the word morsel, for
that matter, or the word resplendent
deployed right at sunset.
Listen—relish and solace
are all I solicit. Long term, no way
could this ever work.

Friday, September 6, 2019

TURNING TO POETRY


Year by year, our complexions
seem to worsen.
Every pockmark or pimple
is a jot we should have written,
each new wrinkle,
some metaphor we've failed
to explore—or an image
we'd barely dirtied our minds on
before abandoning for the sake
of a cleaner-cut conversation.

Every line which hasn't been
elongated successfully
is another ligament tightening,
until we begin to feel
whole stanzas still inside us
one by one, shuttering their doors,
cooling down, getting dusty—
the way joints get rusty,
cartilage hardens, and breathing
and bloodflow begin to slow.

What are these statues
we're all turning into? What
grotesque creature (and from
where?) do we slouch toward?
Which crumpled object, cracked
nationalist symbol, club-footed
iamb, or hoarse-whispered word?
Maybe things don't fall apart;
maybe they just harden,
and harden, and conserve—until

all life is
is arches and serifs;
some are just slightly
ahead of the curve:
from Abraham and Sarah,
to Binkie and Herb—
everyone on earth
who has ever existed
sooner or later
is a word.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

STARVING

for bread—you must
pick yourself up
by the bootstraps;

for roses—quit
pulling yourself
up by the roots.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

FALSE ALARM

Ten a.m.—must be the first
Tuesday of the month: time
to test every emergency
siren, all at once. I wonder,

Has someone determined
that Ten a.m. on Tuesday
is the least likely time for an
actual disaster? Is it just

too soon in the week
for the great apes
and the lions to escape?
Too early in the day perhaps,

to incur the rage and mania
of a battered mother
nature? Am I really so sure
that I'm sitting too far west

to finally anger Zeus
into reanimating the Gorgons
for having picked the wrong
religion all along? (Although,

would that one really
be so bad, anyway? To be
stone-still, to be spared all this,
and to last?) Just ten or so

more seconds to go now—until
the shrill whistles finish blaring
their counterfactual bulletins
of Warning, Warning, Warning;

This Is Your Imminent 
Emergency Warning 
That There Currently Is No Such
Imminent Emergency.

And then: on a dime at
one minute after—that feeling,
not of relief, but of something
which is nothing,

something which it seems like I've
only been rehearsing feeling,
something I can't quite
put our finger on—I can

only say for sure that it must be
a feeling I feel routinely
relieved to have failed
to feel for real.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

CRAZY ABOUT LUNA

I've got a girl who comes
around every night—
no matter what
her day has been like.

I bask in the glow of a
bride who's dependable. After she
binges, she purges—
so she never really changes.

This woman worships the very
festering earth that I walk on.
But she's clean. And careful
not to give in to those urges.

She's an angel, ghostly pale
and powdered smooth.
And so she prefers me bonesmooth
and bonewhite too.

We don't have to talk. When I
blink, she blinks. When I wink,
she wobbles. She doesn't drink
but doesn't mind if I do—as long

as we continue to dance
wild tarantellas on this
lawn by the heaving
sea until dawn. And as long as

the shimmering night tide
is jealous, keeps snapping its
million little pictures each second—
I'll look smug and satisfied. I'll lie

at night, my chin raised, my
gaze fixed to that one certain
place in the sky—like the most
requited dead man alive.

Monday, September 2, 2019

SPACE FOR LUCY

Thank goodness
for a whisker

for the few
coarse copper hairs—

little stowaways
still clinging

to the disconsolate
underside of cushions—

all these
lazy days

all these harrowing
years later.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

NOBODY'S PERFECT

Once you're an adult
and you're living alone,
you'll finally do whatever
you want to do—just
because you can. You'll
wear the same clothes
and eat with your hands
and work on poems all
morning, then take naps
in the middle of every
afternoon. You'll never
have to talk to anyone
you truly get along with.
At night, you won't
go out—you'll just lurk
around, or lounge;
you'll loaf on the couch.
You could smoke
indoors if you wanted
to—but you don't.
You'll get to watch the shows
you want, then throw-
out your television
the moment you suspect
that you've begun
to outgrow it. In fact,
you'll throw out most
of your furniture
while you're at it—
and your books
and your dishes
and your coats
and your shoes
and those old pictures
and most of the food
in your refrigerator—since
no one you love is coming
home expecting dinner.
Not ever again, as far
as you can guess. So it's
burgers again. Hell—it's
burgers for breakfast.
Nobody's perfect. This is
so much simpler.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

HERE'S WHERE THE POEM COMES IN

It's probably
true, the soul
likes its strictness—yes,

it actually desires
its tightness
and its rigor.

it longs to be stiff,
wants to stick
to the classics—it insists

on complete
silence in the library,
on reading (by candlelight)

canonical literature
mistrustfully and critically,
on going straight

to the Sanskrit
or ramming Derrida hard-
as-it-can at Saussure.

However—the soul
is also smooth,
completely

edgeless,
and invisible. As such,
it must also crave

to be mistaken,
to feel stupid—and often
misrepresented;

to get taken
for the proverbial
ride and even get

called a little son
of a bitch, now and then,
by courtroom men in

tailored suits or brimstone-
eyed priests
in identical robes.

It has no mother, either,
so it must be used to
being overlooked

by heroic
women in white
coats or blue uniforms

who routinely check
the body, not for a soul
at all, but just

for a pulse,
for a heartbeat,
for a certain rhythm

that resembles—
which perfectly
rigid military

march, what turgid
German symphonic
masterpiece, exactly?

Friday, August 30, 2019

ABSTRACT EXPRESSION

The thing about living
on planet Earth is

the Sun
always seeming
from this perspective, to rise

of its own volition—
each morning
glory petal uncurling

the same way its
light arcs and turns dreamy

through the green glass
which is strewn
around everywhere:

Rolling Rock, maybe
San Pellegrino—

domesticated German, wild
Latinate words combining,

disposable shells
of desperation
and sensibility,

all these trivial
husks of hard money—

all divorced, but
each kissed into glimmering
in the same decisive way;

coerced to cohere—
to mingle
in this loamy alley

like Rothkos
in their gallery.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

DREADING COMPANY

Don't worry—the little awkward
silences you encounter
are nothing at all

like the cracks
in a load-bearing wall.

And—though they thread
and filament through the fabric
of your prefab interactions
and artless attempts at cooperation,

conspicuous as the spider
veins on the legs of your grandmother

or the capillaries
inside your eyes every night
when you stare for too long
at the bathroom mirror—these pauses

are not empty gaps.
Hesitation

is much sturdier, much
stronger than that.

Think of the rebar
under miles of concrete
keeping the road you must one day take

to the hospital from falling
into complete disrepair;
think of the mortar

which holds tight to the bricks
of all the mausoleums out there
built to contain the remains

of each bygone day—
which, like it
or not, we are tirelessly building,

every minute,
every second—stone

by inane little stone—whether we're
doing it alone
or together.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

LOST HAIKU CONTEST


Strange feeling to get—

a certain image: not shit

like certain feelings.



Image result for lost

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

THE SAFETY'S ON OL' BETSY

Ghostly-paler nights, closer-
and closer-away disasters—

this is no Disney park;
no handholds, no boardwalk of nations,

no lanterns—visible stars, like
lights in the harbor. Far too dangerous

to be seen, to get caught
thinking—let alone to just imagine

the thought
as: only the post-conscious representation 

of a prior neural-chemical action 
over which we as agents had 

no control. 
We had no idea.

Why would we
listen—why lay down our arms

with intent
to become weapons instead?

Why come, increasingly, with user
instructions and warnings, why bother

to refashion ourselves next time
thinner, lighter, smaller?

Why no longer try to conceal ourselves
in order to carry

one another across certainty's borders?
Ghostlier and ghostlier,

smoother and smoother—over time
we might come to trust ourselves

not as guns, but as their
hair triggers—if we are moved to act,

it is because we got bumped, not
squeezed by an omnipotent finger.

Monday, August 26, 2019

THE ABSENCE OF THE IMAGINATION

          The absence of the imagination had
          itself to be imagined.
                —Wallace Stevens, "The Plain
                     Sense of Things"

Make it new,
make it plain,
make it sing, no ideas

but in things—now
who am I?
And how is it right to talk

in a future
where I'm
seeing digital pictures

of those things
instead of originals?

Like, just this morning—
the towering
figure of a guy

so prim in his black
and white suit and tie,

so shy—so 1945 New-
England-buttoned-down, he'd likely
never have said fuck at all

the way I do so
casually today,
whether out in public

or mired like this,
in a much plainer poem
(sketched, by the way,

in pajamas on a smartphone)
about far less plain things—
such as my own disillusionment

with images. Or else, the way
I've taken all these
pictures for granted.

I've never really known
the full weight
of physical media,

felt the fineness of excess
or correctness of old
catastrophes—

let alone
straightened my dour tie and
proceeded to imagine, somehow

much more wildly
impossible things:

the bronzed edges of space
where golden birds sing
their wordless songs

of thought, perched firmly
on a palm

of a hand
which might be mine,
or might be

the frond of a tree
still growing, even now—
still blowing

in the same slow wind
at the end of the mind.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

JUST A SECOND, ALL THE TIME

Clean rows
of colorless cemetery
stones, hard-edged

at the end of the day, stabbing
all their shadows
uniformly eastward—

already stark
nighttime
in that part of the world;

somewhere beyond
that—already tomorrow. Pinks again,
oranges, yellows; a light

breakfast
tasting just thoughtlessly
alright to someone.

First, grace: a life
never seems neat until it's
bound and finished.

Then, mercy:
the reassuring smell
of wet grass dissipates

once you round the bend
and you don't have
time for this.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

REVELATION

This is a collection of verses
scrawled to your self in the future
by homeless men—

a few sprawled on benches,
one or two in smart nooks
between tree trunks—

all strewn across the park
in the late
August dawn.

It was first sounded out on the breeze;
it whispers of adversaries,
wails of the sort

of contention which
the conspicuous
absence of women portends—

it warns you:
every morning (so far) is similar,
but it could have been very different;

it ruins the old lines,
stale soup queues now not even
worth standing in;

it trumpets: the gold rush is over
on compassion, there's a run
on cooperation. The foliage ringing

on the outskirts is still
green, but it knows:
presently

all is nourished, is kissed
by vague sun—but
by and by, every island paradise

in the city will be fumigated,
then cleansed—if not by a flood
of rain water, then

by the bitter
certain cruelty of the coming
season's wind.

Friday, August 23, 2019

AN IMPRESSION

This morning:
the early clouds—soft
gauze

swathing last night's
dreams, still-raw—
steered

harmlessly now,
out past
the veil

of existence
by cool pulses of wind—
an impression

of
sky moving
outward forever;

a suspicion
of never
having been

more certain
about blue—less sure
of the word for it.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

THE IMMORTAL MADE SIMPLE

Try this—
place a good little
gift shop bouquet

of red local
flowers on the table
near the window

in their
hospital room at
the right time of day—

then watch
for a minute (though they
aren't awake)

the auroras cascade:
the amaranthine import
of Art itself

flooding in
to drench the tedious
and inconsequential,

the antiseptic gray
space in which Commonplace
necessarily exists—

and then come
home and tell me
you still don't know

what forever
is, or today
was for.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

OBSERVANCE

From that first catastrophe of dawn,
the liturgies of sun, of wind, or
of rain; the driving, idling bit
by bit in this or that room, consuming
sacraments until they're gone—

to the inevitable slouching,
the slow bowing-down and the
penitent crawl toward reconciliation
with twilight and night as they play

out on television—no one we would
shudder to recognize as formerly living
ever comes. The miracle: there never was
a minute of perfect blameless silence
all day long. Not even one.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

WITHERING

       Though leaves are many, the root is one;
       Through all the lying days of my youth
       I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;
       Now I may wither into the truth.
              -W.B. Yeats, "The Coming Of 
               Wisdom With Time"


How many drafts 
does it take 
for a wild poem to atrophy
into its spare and abiding truth? 

How many 
barely differing iterations 
for its flashy lines to stiffen 
and darken, 

for its wettest words to dry, its dazzling 
images to soften 
into such well-defined textures 
and restrained colors 

that any artistically-inclined 
eye in the future 
could easily reproduce them, as if 
painting by-numbers? 

How many nights 
to name 
the full moon titanium- 
or maybe dove-white 

such that, 
in the mind of a person 
whom I don't even know 
that I love yet, it never wanes; 

or to define the morning 
light which streams 
through my window simply
as yellow ochre—

and, perfectly satisfied 
with the very certain kind of longing 
I've conveyed, just turn away
and leave it at that? 

Monday, August 19, 2019

FRUITION

That almost cloying sweetness
of summer—
all the blossoms
spinning spare sugar
out of the extra hours of light,

the blue lusciousness
of water and the
candied stripes of tree shade,

our skin, and the skins of our
daughters and sons, like peaches
and nectarines blushing
pleasantly darker with
the slow simmer of each passing day—

these things make it possible
not to endure, but to ignore—
or obfuscate for a little longer—
to mask the bitter tang of death which
always smolders in the background.

Idle afternoons induce in us daydreams
not of stingy bees' stingers
but their generous amber
honey soothing
the backs of our ticklish throats;

we forget
how true it is,
and how telling

that whichever holy specimen
of fruit we are handed—
however ripe and juicy, bewilderingly
redolent, immeasurably round—

the most perfect thing
we can think to do
is bite into it;

to destroy that integrity,
to take every fraction of its cool
sweet perfection, reduce it, and
lock it away deep inside—

as if somehow, we could force
even the smallest truth
to be ours and
ours alone.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

THE THING WITH FEATHERS

          "Hope" is the thing with feathers—
          That perches in the soul—
                    —Emily Dickinson

So, wait—but which
particular bird
was Hope, again? The dark
raven, no,

the white dove—
doesn't matter
much, I suppose, since I haven't
seen either around

here for a while—just this one
slight silver crane,
made from a carefully
folded old gum wrapper

which lies belly-up
and gleams for a second each morning
when I open the flooded top
drawer of my desk;

but I think it's safe to say
this one's given up its quest—
which was never for Hope, anyway
but of course, for Peace and Love—

in the name of bestowing its
little specious branches
of Peace and Quiet, daily, upon this
shabby ark, instead.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

BELIEVE IT OR NOT

the lights are still
on somewhere—
There is nothing

at their center—
Nothing
at the boundary

Friday, August 16, 2019

QUIXOTIC

Astonishing how
the impetuous morning glories—
their fluted violet
petals near-translucent
in the onrushing
light of the dawning world,
their young tendrils heroically
messy and untamable—
are still so eager
to drape their spry substance
around the perfectly
ordinary: wrought iron fences,
long rows of tall black,
machined en masse
for the purpose of keeping
one particular stripe
of life in each neighborhood
separate and abstractly
protected from the others.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

THE CATCH

It's all the daily floating
irritations in your eye which blind you
to the beauty you may somehow
yet be making from their shavings

for the sake of a beholder
whose tastes and purpose
your nervous system was never
built to imagine—what is a pearl anyway

but thankless work
done in secret around oversensitivity;
a little tenderness over time growing
too unwieldy for the oyster.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

Most days I don't see
anyone—

just dogs
halls doors lawns.

This
seems fine.

These silent creatures
and I, we get along

famously
as all the creeping things in Eden.

Then again, if I
were Adam

this paradise
wouldn't have lasted long

as I'd have balked
at the prospect of sacrificing

one iota
of its staid perfection.

I would never consent
to the theft

of an inch;
not one ounce,

not a minute—
let alone

the indispensable
symmetry of my rib cage

for the sake of
conversation.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

THE DRY SPELL REBELLION

Too early for autumn, so I had to
convince myself I saw
above the street this morning

a whole fleet, an army,
an air force of brown pointed
leaves going AWOL,

madly abandoning its
camp in a tree—but (as if refusing
both surrender and retreat)

exploding up instead of falling,
then executing a quick barrel rolled
burst along the horizontal,

breaking for freedom
with all of its might—like a scrappy
half-starved young colony

of sparrows, who would rather
their poor overtaxed
hearts give out from the fight

than stay put and continue
to exist in my mind's stultifying
grip of persecution.

Monday, August 12, 2019

STEP ZERO

Before the first thing,
morning itself

searches 
for a body—wet chocolate

or warm
milk in color;

torso, cagey
gnarl of limbs,

any weird
protuberances dangling—

preposterous illusion
of indelibility,

of familiarity:
always the same

incentivizing
degree of unrecognizable.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

DIAGRAM YOUR LIFE

Forget about
arriving (somewhere
you have

heard this);
what's important
is the journey.

I'm curious
what all the paths would
say about that:

striding
versus striving—how quickly
muddied,

how complex
the physics of
simplicity gets.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

DOG DAYS

Like the first time it
weightlessly
darkens your mind

that you've almost been
at the same
task for too long,

so the rainlessness
gradually bakes
its cracks and imperfections

into mid-August.
From park to mangy parkway,
nothing fresh

is happening—
just the slow bleaching
and rusting of status quos 

which typify hard-won
and wistfully
lackadaisical midlife.

Dog days,
we call them—the shaggy
glaucomic old hunters

nosing already for
that twinge
of September,

that shiver—a portent
without any
prompt from memory:

death will return here
as beauty's young
heiress, not it's mother.

Friday, August 9, 2019

THAT ONE ANNOYING POEM IN YOUR NEWSFEED

I know. Right now,
as you read this,
or listen—so many things

you're not seeing, will not have
heard this morning.
For every thrush that's

chirping—which rain forest?
Every last night's gauzy
dream—whose murder?

Authorities maintain:
every siren in the distance,
every gallant black

batman-looking
helicopter on the scene—is hope
and significance,

provides solace and
explication, bakes another brick
into a biblical tower.

But as far
as our starved and poverty-
stricken insight is concerned:

silence is the mortar.
Traffic conditions matter.
The weather

affects construction schedules.
Not always, but
some days might start

with the premise:
What if there weren't any 
small questions? 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

PERFECT MIRACLE

We aren't true believers, but still
in our hands, the calendar
is transformed into

a rosary; one at a time
we allow its worn beads
to slip through our warm and

penitent fingers, intently repeating
the same sentences
in the same orders—

entreating the universe
conjuring, from breath and air
pressure alone, the one and only

truly perfect miracle:
the stamina with which
to sustain the illusion—

a frail human notion
that devotion alone
constitutes sequence,

as if anything regarding
inward reflection's
procedure were volitional,

as if allowing 
could explain what we find
ourselves doing,

as if we were the ones letting
the days go by.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

WEDNESDAYS

Certain days, when I feel
stuck, disempowered—
when there's

a creature in
the corner of the
room I can't acknowledge—

I'll sit down and look at
the word written-out:
W-E-D-N-E-S DAY

while allowing my
mind to pronounce
it as: Wenz / day.

The simple simultaneity
of the discrepancy
is such a relief; as if a thing

which is two things,
is all you need to triangulate
the size of your life—

to walk the uncharted
perimeter of its shape;
to peer in one misty

window—then another;
listening both places for
the better music,

but hearing
the exact same thing,
whether it's

this little baby getting
sung-to—or that little one,
gently wept-over.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

LOOKING FOR HOME

Almost (but not quite) like
a Renaissance painter
who has masterfully hidden his
face somewhere

in every Last
Supper or
Agony in the Garden,
Sometimes I think there is

a little lost dog inside
everything I write—
perhaps a scrappy black-
and-white terrier named Richard

who goes searching all night
for that one signature
door frame he knows, combing row
after row of my odd

bumpy prose like
cold cobblestones
in the alleys of a hamlet called
Hyrule Castle Town

long after the market bazaars
have closed down and his owner—
a plump moon-
faced woman, whose name

might even be Mamayu Yan
has returned home alone
to weep and pace worried
infinity symbols

around the stark wood interior
one of my many
flimsily-built medieval
slums of a stanza.

Monday, August 5, 2019

HOW TO WIN THE POEM

Work with regularity
and weightiness a while

to form the mallet
of your timing,

to whack-a-mole
those rising bubblelike

holes in all your feelings.
Sometimes you'll see them

because they gleam
with rhyme—

others because
it makes you furious

to the point of near
blindness when they won't.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

5 6 7 8

Between the counts
of one and two,
something furious must
go missing;

between two and three persists 
a distraction, an Instagram picture: 
an idyllic waterfall—with Sisyphus 
photoshopped down at the bottom;

three will only hook-up with four 
the way a pale green door fits 
with its frame—thin ribbons of empty 
space all around it, 

a rectangle of light 
escaping from an off-limits interior 
too reminiscent of the house you 
grew up in to bear. 

For the choreographer—
whose idea of truth 
fits inside the cramped beauty of space
like lace

slippers inside a white 
workaday box,
whose escape from the real is 
the regimentation of the possible—

such profligate ciphers
must leave
not enough, or else too many
rooms for error.

Friday, August 2, 2019

JEALOUS GUY

There are certain disadvantages
to not believing in god

I remind myself grasping
and embracing are

not the same thing
but at some point one

turns into the other
for instance those people

who think they
were John Lennon in a past life

but still a charm
that works like a charm

in the wilderness that exists
out past the garden footpath

must be the the end
of the whole discussion

the sunflower
a bewildering eclipse overhead

the staggered majesty of
Douglas fir mountains

what are these
but swirls of light and matter

forms of that madness
which does no harm?

Thursday, August 1, 2019

FISH ARE JUMPING, COTTON IS HIGH

In the dream, it is never raining.
The bees have plenty of time to talk.
The cotton is high, but the corn
is green and neat, and, though it nods,

it isn't listening. Above tree crowns,
the sky has become its own flag:
proud blue and rippling with starlings.
Beneath, huge fish—all exhilarated,

all silver—bullet their glistening
bodies upstream to spawn.
But then, something happens;
something dawns, or someone speaks—

in the gravel bed, an idea has dropped
and broken open; the honey turns
sweet and begins to get heavy.
The bees, those once-lithe teachers,

are drowsy. Clouds gather at far corners
like rumors: those salmon are running
toward suicide—and yet, soon every
reluctant student will wake and return.

LOVE POEM FOR THE WHOLE WORLD

You and me—
in such perfect sync

we never even
think of each other.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

AUTUMN CHILD

I am a fall child; I arrived
in October—those rough days
of angles and auburn,

the smell of thick stew,
and the texture of book pages
in light from a wonderfully shrewd
consolidation of afternoon.

So if I'm caught off-guard now
by these humid blue breezes,
the post-rain swelter
of gutter puddles evaporating—

if I am cautious
to discharge wool socks;
to fire my shirt sleeves, roll up pant
cuffs, and go wading
off into the lush quiche
of a muggy summer street festival—

it may be
because each always feels like
the first one I've ever seen,

and I'm dubious.
I still suspect I might be better off
back in the comfortable-
temperatured dark,

before there was even mock-
twilight to speak of:
just me and my heartbeat, listening
to this season, not experiencing it;

instead of believing,
make-believing
I haven't even been born yet.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

DAY-TO-DAY

My body this morning—
a disheveled high-rise in the 1980s.

Blood, phlegm, lymphatic fluid—all
the disparate wearied residents
trudging reluctant through its
paper-thin halls.

Organs—online, but struggling
appliances—coffee makers,
dish washers, sputtering

and spitting out their
proxies for day-to-day existence.

Bones—the rattling ductwork,
concealed by repeat-stressed and
yellowing ligaments
of bored and boring drop ceiling.

Several lightbulbs blinking,
several gone out,
several more missing—

luckily not appendages or teeth.
Perhaps these
are my viewpoints,

affiliations, closed perspectives;
the rueful
poverty-stricken condition of

my never-inspected
subjectivity. And yet, I can feel
new ideas stirring:

those wispy stray and
secretive ones—moths in the back
of some mildewed closet;

those scattered few
which are actionable—
all hard-hats, all cool shiny

boots on the ground—black roaches
in one of the bathrooms.

Monday, July 29, 2019

WAKING UP WITHOUT AN ALARM

First thing
in the morning,

emerging
from the furniture;

clockless time—
arriving completely

as a package does, as a
newspaper

slaps against
(imaginary) edifice of brick—

light through blind slits:
hieroglyphics,

staff paper
to the musical novice.

Any guesses? Any requests? Any hints?
Hamper, bedside table, pull-

chain combination
fan and light fixtureeverything

is landing—
nothing sticks.

a stiff rug,
winterwarm, the

summercold
hardwood—seasons pass over.

which
day is this?

Sunday, July 28, 2019

MORTALITY

It's like—you know you know
the sky is blue;

you don't need some poem
to throttle it into you.

But every time you look through
the window,

it both thrills
and
unnerves you a little

to poke
at the smoldering discovery.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

ORTHODOXY

One day
a mosquito lands
on the ashen planet of your ankle,

claims this land
in the name of Queen Whichever,
or perhaps God—

not God in the abstract,
but the immense
expanding and contracting

hide
of one heartsick African
elephant in particular—whereupon

it plants a funny kind
of flag, and makes to
refuel the ship before blast-off.

You—the you who
construes this
on a green-painted zoo bench—

you are not God.
You are no one
to it: sheer alien surface,

concealing new potentialities
of the most essential resources.
It

is most definitely
nothing to you.
Not even this. This

is artifice; another kind
of surface,
a different kind of exhibit.

The unreconstructed
truth—you never even
noticed it.

Friday, July 26, 2019

LES FLEURS DU MAL

Yes, it makes sense: Evil
always has its roots, so it must
by extension, have its
blossoms too—and Goodness

they say, in time, bears fruit,
ensuring its perpetuation
with its own sweet reward.
But what about

the potential efflorescence
of simply not caring, one
way or the other? How come
no one seems to wonder

how fresh-faced and mysterious
could be those alternate
shapes that would hang
on the stems of no preference,

no inclination, no opinion?
Imagine for a moment those
First Prize-winning specimens:
their angles razor-sharp—

from years of assiduously
doing no harm to anyone—
perfectly contrasted
with the voluptuous contours

of never having lifted one
finger in assistance.
After all, it's so common 
to be greedy and dishonest;

so garden to be a champion
of positivity in all circumstances.
How exquisite a life might look
in contrast, how achingly rare

and masterfully complex
to cultivate within in its vast
arable landscape
the Flowers of Nonchalance.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

DAILY WRITING PROMPT

Not purity
initially, but

purity
by purifying.

Not inborn
beauty's

vanity, but
vanities

made and
demonstrated.

Discipline,
not punishment;

ministry,
not religion.

Revision
is musicianship;

the instrument
is rhythm.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

TOUCH ME NOT

Red impatiens
white impatiens
pink impatiens
yellow—dilating

in an obscured
sort of row

on the easement
adjacent to this
fraught intersection—oh

how I adore
that no one asks what's
best for you;

they've just left
you alone to
do the one
thing you

already knew
how to do.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

"HOW CAN YOU STAND TO LIVE IN A CITY?"

It starts with the steady
daily comfort
of cars—

hundreds
of them glinting, perhaps
thousands, in

far light. All
so similar, all parked
strangers' cars,

ordered in penitent
columns and hugging
every serviceable curb in sight.

A sweet constancy—
quite unlike that
of the stars

burning in their
fixed points
out in the country—

whose cloyingness
is tempered
by the salty indeterminacy

as to
which cars, specifically, on
any given morning.

Monday, July 22, 2019

THE EXISTENTIALIST'S TRIP

Nobody else besides you
seems to know—the real value
of vacation isn't memories,
souvenirs, or entertainment;

it's the momentary compression
of the whole agonizing world—
all the purposelessness
and politics, the goal-

seeking and codependency,
all the cold- and hot-
running lust, hunger, dread,
and work/life stress—

into the neat strip of wood
and concrete they
succinctly refer to as
Main Street around here.

And boy, oh boy, wouldn't you
like to shake
hands with this mayor?
For a few soothing days' worth

of saunters, it's: never mind 
the bullocks and the dregs;
never mind the low back pain,
memory loss, and constipation.

Instead of detailing these
internal feelings, you'll catalog
the scenery; and in lieu of periodically
ducking conversation,

you'll duck a little quicker
into corner wine and cheese shops;
and instead of a bad loan, a
long grudge, a struggling marriage;

you'll take some coconut fudge, please,
hold the string of a glossy red
kite in the park, or heck—
maybe simply dose off for a minute

in a warm canvas chair near the pier,
secure in the knowledge
that if it all has to end, at least it'll
all end right there.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

MACKINAC ISLAND WILDFLOWERS

On a rag and bone specimen
of Great Lakes limestone,
between cedars, lining
buggy paths, blurring the bed

and breakfasts' backyards:
lambent shaggy pilewort clusters—
sun-mad, puddle-thick
low-growing buttercups

swirled around everywhere—like
tobacco smoke, like husky
flute notes, like the ancient Native
American narratives

now breezily used as tourist lures.
Or perhaps,
like Apollo
as an unkempt senior citizen—

Eternal Sunshine himself
come to roost forevermore,
to rest anonymous at last
one July afternoon

on the sleepiest,
most wonderfully
outmoded—and forgetful surface
of the Earth.

Friday, July 19, 2019

VAULTING AMBITION

          I have no spur 
          to prick the sides of my intent, but only 
          the vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself, 
          and falls on th'other...
                —Macbeth Act I, Scene 7 .25-28

While hopefully not
quite at Macbeth-level, I admit
to being driven

by the vaulting ambition
to someday write
the greatest poem ever

concerning the heights of human folly.
With each new stab
of the rhetorical knife, I feel

I'm getting closer to
glimpsing the top,
though strangely, not any better

equipped to explain
after the fact, the path by which
I marched up there—because

the worst trait in the world
keeps changing day to day
and minute by minute

(not to mention
those inevitable handicaps
of subjectivity

and translation; character defects
being so disparate
person to person

and place to place).
My latest strategy
is to approach the mood

obliquely—not face to face,
but through a glass
darkly. That is: I take a few sips

of iced coffee each morning
on the back patio while
perusing a few tragedies,

purloining certain key phrases
and re-triangulating
their inclinations. In fact,

as the great Thane
of Cawdor himself discovered
fairly quickly,

the whole endeavor
seems to boil down
to a solitary game

of keeping the plates spinning
and explaining any
cognitive dissonances

not as madness,
but as part of life's
dynamism—for example,

privately plotting
to rid oneself eventually
of those indwelling gremlins

which one hates most,
while still staying faithfully
married to them in the interim.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

PATTERN RECOGNITION

How familiar is this feeling
that it's about to rain, how
dead simple to go and look out a
west-facing window and
watch this ominous thing approach—
less like some work of tragic
flash fiction than like the surfeit of
bad dreams you've been having—
which are, you must try and
remind yourself constantly: terribly 
real, but not at all true.
How normal for your little corner
of the world to go so
intermittently dark and strange;
how comfortable it is to dislike
what you're seeing
when it's all over the news that
you're not alone in your views;
how encouragingly consistent
with your poor tortured body
is the entire abused and
mistreated world all around you:
continually getting rinsed, then
dried off a little, but never once
offered the chance to start new.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT

It's a lot to unpack: whether
the little collective

of coffee beans I automatically
pulverize each morning—

then sluice
boiled water through—

then throw in the trash
and distractedly

sip the resultant brew
while reading a few Tweets before

dashing out the door—
was heretofore treated equitably

on its journey
from Ecuador to Chicago.

Most days, I'm too distracted
by my ongoing lack

of contentment, too worn out
from last night's argument

at the bar, or else
I just find it a little too convenient-

ly early to contemplate:
whether there is really

such a thing as
a good person,

a better thought,
a noble action—

or if it just feels that way
by comparison

when one tends to go around
thoughtlessly extracting

only those bits
which are most useful

from one
bitter assemblage—

one shit-
situation—after another.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

MASSES

Astounding—the dark clouds
which have gathered
this morning

could only have come
from nowhere,
could only be going

nowhere. And yet,
here we are
beneath them again—the believers,

sipping our coffee
a bit more devotionally,
letting our eyes wander

that much more slowly
over a few extra columns
of the day's first reading,

wavering a little longer
in the dimly lit front halls
where the rain jackets

and umbrellas are reverently hanging,
before diffidently opening
and closing our large doors

and beginning the gravid procession,
to and fro, past one another
without candles

or crosses—but because
we recognize
the damp feeling of being

audited
from an alter
somewhere behind a screen—

with our heads bowed
automatically a little
closer to our arched shoulders.

Monday, July 15, 2019

DOCUMENT

Back home for a holiday,
watching smudged approximations
of former special
occasions on television

as magnetic tape slithers—
unspooling and recoiling away
inside its thirty-year-old
VHS case—I'm wondering

if blurry is even the right word
to describe what it is I—
and mom and dad
and Jeffery—are seeing.

I don't remember being there
that time I turned seven
and the ice cream cake's candles
proved too tricky for me to handle

any more than they can
seem to recall plotting it, snickering,
and bearing witness. And yet,
here it is (albeit dark and a

bit fuzzy): proof positive
that it happened; that it was brutal
and savage—and that, still, somehow
the dispassionate world

kept on turning.
But I can't help but figure
that, if he were here, my tight-lipped
old Grandpa would remember

operating all of those arcane controls,
forcing his one good eye
into the uncomfortably
hot rubber socket

of a cumbrous state-of-the-art machine,
and proceeding to achieve
his cold sober objective—like
it was yesterday.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

ALWAYS

Out of what must be millions
upon millions of those
maple tree whirlybirds,

my eye
always seems to focus
on one ruddy outlier

as it helicopters—
perilous, heroic,
and lonely—out and down

to some very likely inhospitable
patch of new ground.
And I wonder,

for the thousandth time,
whether
everything I am

is just all the things I can't
stop doing.
And then, for the first:

what will become of that heap
if I keep neglecting
to sweep it

since I'm always
so busy jotting-
down these spare phenomena.

Friday, July 12, 2019

AFTER THE POEM IS DONE

Of the tens of murky self-
similar thousands,
there is only one

crystalline moment
immediately after
the poem is done

in which I don't feel exceptional
pressure to explain
anything to anyone;

not the intimate
nature of my relationship
to friction and its coefficients,

not the gory details
of my long-standing three way
with Gravity and the Normal Force,

not even the vague way in which
uselessness wells up and
clashes with hope

when I stop to acknowledge
the velocity at which
the surface of the earth has been rotating.

For one rock-solid second,
I feel obligated
never to explain

anything that's been going on with me
ever again.
And when this happens,

it's such a strange combination of
a relief
and a rush,

a hybridized feeling
so complete, yet unique—
almost to the point

of being unheard-of—that
just this once, I
had to tell someone.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

MATHEMATICALLY SPEAKING

Still thinking about you every
so often, I wonder whether
the paradox of Zeno

isn't the real reason
I still feel safe reaching—
across camouflaged time

and dubiously
empty space, tiptoeing lightly
as I pass

around all the noisy hollow
containers, the trash left over
from sugary memories,

and the pale changeling bodies
of every possible
unborn child—

and if simply halving the distance
stepping by-numbers,
then fractions

of numbers,
isn't the best, if not only way
to move forward

incorporeally
toward what I take to be
your face,

two outstretched
arms, and chest—in a theoretically
classic gesture

of comfort
and genuine condolence,
without ever

having, mathematically
speaking, to wreck all that
by embracing.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

FIRST PLACE

At the starting line, there are so often
things we mean to write or say
aphoristically—but it
never turns out that way.

In no time flat, the words begin
to clump in herds,
to yoke themselves up—and we
can't resist plowing

aimlessly forward:
mowing down the clean
mentality of trees,
uprooting the humbler mammals'

homes as we go on constructing
another eight lane road to god-
knows-where, without even caring
which direction we're going.

But then, where in hell have aphorisms
ever gotten us anyway?
I remember hearing once, for instance,
that love is all you need,

that it'd be just the thing
to light the way, to show me
where I was going and
where I would stay.

But now I think
the most useful emotion
is whichever one
is still in the tank,

whichever residual feeling
remains, whichever mood we still feel
lingering in the sweaty air
at the end of our labors

once we've finally had the courage
to drop every implement, turn
around filthy, and survey the truth
about where it is we came from.

Friday, July 5, 2019

THE TITLE COMES LAST

As if we're never quite sure
what we're asking for
until some much more scientific
future version of ourselves
deigns to review
and reanimate the words we interred
a long time ago
in a galaxy far far away—
the title of a thing
almost always comes last.
If at first, this order of events
might seem counterintuitive;
the reality is, composition
can only proceed this way, since
the context of our intention
so often shifts as we
invent it—the only constant being
the implausibility
of discovery: tectonic plates hidden
beneath the feet of mountains
asleep under oceans
of green liquid methane
on the dimly lit fifth moon
of a strange exoplanet
which has not even been looked at
by the eyes of sentient beings yet,
let alone colonized and named.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

AN ABSENCE OF COOPERATION

What's the difference between
the silence
of the tiger

lily and
the tiger sleeping—
between the pale lotus

flower and the still-paler
moon smeared loosely on the
surrounding water?

Even closer
to home, I hear so many
of these absences

which seem to work together—
the quiet of morning
coffee in my cup

and of the downstairs
neighbors who
moved out last month;

the peace of the municipal vehicle
at the end of the cul-de-sac
not backing up

and the similar tranquility
of the steeple bell around the corner
during all the minutes

that mercifully exist
in between those horribly
ironclad hours.

In fact, there must be hundreds
of thousands of different
kinds of silence,

each with its own
loud dark way of knowing
something connected

to something else.
And I can't help but wonder—
which pair is the most like us?

I don't mean the species—I mean you
and me: two points,
two dots

at the top of
two necks, always connected,
always yolked as efficiently as possible

on the geodesic
surface of this planet, but never
really talking.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

WORD PROBLEM

If it takes amount of minutes
every morning to out-wake
a bad dream,

how many days;
how many busywork late
afternoons, silent

cold dinners, mild dry-eyed
television nights—each calibrated
so meticulously

to the shape
of its own goneness—will it
take to finally outlive it?

Monday, July 1, 2019

SUMMER IN THE CITY

     And babe, don't you know it's a pity 
     that the days can't be like the nights 
     in the summer, in the city?
     -The Lovin' Spoonful

I don't know; you can give me
a grotesquely hot
sunny day

any day,
and every
night: the same

lone protuberant tree,
old—and frozen
to the spot, a stubborn paragon

whose huge inarticulate
soul I could
stand in

like the shadow
at 2 p.m. that mercifully
subsumes my own.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

A SLIVER

Most days, the view
from my second story
window is enough—
catalpa leaves flush
against the glass,
with just a dash of
sweetgum, street lamp
tops, blank sky for
light shows, and red
brick in the distance
making up the rest.

I do not need to know
what's happening
down at ground level—
little kids in molded
plastic cars and trucks
pushed from behind
by wearied adults,
joggers and students
lugging backpacks
huffing past, a man in
a business suit or woman
in scrubs, perhaps, and
the dogs—the endless
parades of dogs.

I am content without
any of that—like a
sweet old lady, eager
but hesitant to accept
the prospect of pie
after lunch: any more
than a sliver would
be too much. In fact,
speaking candidly as
a tiny local piece of that
uncountable puzzle,
most days, I'm relieved
to feel responsible
for noticing only a
fraction of the whole.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

INCONSEQUENT

From no practical instruction,
I have come to learn

that around seven a.m. is
when the June sun

is angled just right
for its light to become tangled,

momentarily fragmented
and trapped

in the tightly weaved branches of
two sweetgum trees

at the end of my street, just such
that I can linger beneath

and freely observe it
fixed there: halcyon, pacific;

as if standing—like god would,
like the word did

in the beginning
before it could be spoken

or heard—completely implicit,
inconsequent of time.

That I am there promptly
each morning

to see it—makes no difference;
that I am here now

to say it—matters
every little bit.

Friday, June 28, 2019

BLURB

God, I love dust jackets—
that watery shimmer 
when I flip the book over,
that crackle of actuality
when I pry open the cover,
the arising in the mind
of undiscovered adjectives
like disaster-retardant 
and recent-history-proof.

Sometimes I wish I could
have an extra wrap too;
and that people I knew—
mom, dad, old girlfriends, and
math teachers; the taxi drivers
and waitresses whom, over
the years, I've been nice to—
could condense why I matter
and write it across my back.

Not forever, of course, but
for the foreseeable future—
I could weather abuse with
a little extra good humor,
ooze the self-confidence
of Fonzie in leather, finally
find myself redundantly useful
to someone like you—I'd recline
by your side, a glad initiate

in the first decent
materialistic substitute
for religion: baptized
in matte finish, or anointed
with hi-gloss and beaming
at a picnic reception
by the edge of a river,
in brilliant tandem
with the afternoon sun.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

IF EARTH HAD TWO MOONS

If Earth had two moons,
that would be a disaster.

Excluding what such
an astronomical discrepancy

would do to pop music
and local weather patterns,

I'd never have known which one
I was kissing you under

that cool night in the park
on the creaky swings,

after we'd dared
to dance for the first time.

It could have practically
trashed the experience—

to have finally actualized
the love I had for you

under a propitiously blue-silver
glow from above, while

privately, you swooned for
the pure whiteness of another.

The whole relationship
could have been corrupted,

likely doomed to failure—
not that it was much better

the way it really happened:
two people picturing

different things—
even with just the one up there.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

DEAN PARK

Lost between the jigsaws of
west side horizons—sparrows
convene parliaments
in its watercolor bushes

and greedy bees haul around
their gold underneath, while the
centerpiece jungle gym's
polished aluminum skin glints

from maroon to bright
red in the afternoon sun.
Near its goofy green water feature,
one child laughs, and another

starts weeping; and a third one's
head begins nodding, like the heads
of those roses out on the fringes
being tussled just a little

by the rakish lake breezes. Now,
conscientious new parents begin
motioning for strollers, produce
snacks in Ziploc bags

or another layer of clothes
for their imminent nappers.
And somewhere out beyond the
decommissioned water tower,

an old song starts playing,
someone in a nearby loft is
practicing the saxophone—or
else running the vacuum cleaner

or just maybe—singing something
about how life is just 
bowl of cherries—or was that
last lyric: a baggie of cereal?

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

WORK-FROM-HOME TROUBADOUR

     The poets are at their windows 
     because it is their job for which 
     they are paid nothing every Friday afternoon.
     -Billy Collins, "Monday"

I'm fine with these wages,
the gutter flower
and alley cat bonuses
I've been saving in the
401k Of The Imagination.
Keep your view of the
Champs-Élysées
give me the edges
of Midwestern front lawns
which nobody
owns on the 
far side of the walk.
Believe it or not,
Bumble Bee brand canned
chub mackerel 
tastes pretty décente 
both cold and hot—
The only thing which
stings a little
is having to buy
my fromages
in bricks—never wedges, 
not even blocks. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

MERWIN IN THE KITCHEN

For better—but, of course
for worse—when I pick up one
of your smart slender books,

it puts a sort of simple frame
made of un-lacquered wood
around the minutiae of morning.

It is—you'd be relieved
to hear, I think—a subtle feeling:
like gravity,

like insects' wings beating
from way out there on the fringe
of your garden;

I find myself
pausing between pages—
to trace with a finger

a certain pattern in the
grain of the table,
to listen more closely

to the sonata
of the fridge compressor,
to gently swirl

this glass of cool milk—
allowing it
to dawn on me

(the way dawn itself must
dawn every day at the
end of a rainy Maui night)

that I wouldn't enjoy it
if I drank it too quickly,
that any second—

this one—or maybe
the one that comes next—
could be

an equator,
some invisible
but significant

prime meridian,
the exact dead
center of my life.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

SLAP IN THE FACE

     This is tantamount to a slap in the face.
     -Cosmo Kramer

Can anything besides
a slap in the face
really be tantamount 
to a slap in the face?

Could any deed meet
or surpass the sensation;
can words
stand-in for feeling?

Me, seriously writing
a poem about this,
for instance—you,
sitting there reading?

Saturday, June 22, 2019

POEM TO A PICTURE

When and wherever I
look at something, I can't help
but imagine I'm
seeing the whole picture.

It's a different problem than
the one you might be thinking:
mistaking trees
for whole forests, calling
nine guys a baseball team, and so on;

it's more
like how I force myself to look
at your face while I'm
talking like this,

because then, I'll believe—that you
are really in there,
that then you can see
and hear me too,

that your head was ever even
close to the house
you liked to call
home in the first place—

it's also like standing
on the edge of this pier
while I do it,

then, gazing out over
the darkening water and realizing
this is me, all alone
on the ocean—

instead of just
on the shore.

Friday, June 21, 2019

THE PRICE

It's a beautiful thing I suppose at
first, outside my window

each morning—a hundred or so
sparrows that can't resist singing,

each punching a hole in the
cheap silence, sharpening

to a nice fine point
another one of the universe's

amorphous lumps of potentiality,
spinning one more dull strand

of space—formerly reserved
for something tedious

to occur—into the gold
of what's actually happening

even as I bend
to write it.

But I admire them less
when I descend to street level.

Walking past their lean environs,
it isn't difficult to see

that the price they pay
for their kinetic abilities—

their singing prowess, their
admirable near-weightlessness,

their sleek fleetness of wing
and of foot in the lilac bushes—

is instant panic
at the slightest hint of foot traffic

and an unwinnable war
for territory and resources

against even the least
formidable wind.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE

Experience tends
to accumulate gradually—
its little green spears take
their time broadening

into fat wise leaves,
which then rain down
flowers for months thereafter,
with the indiscriminate grace

of a grand old catalpa
tree, anointing as it shelters
everything underneath.

But knowledge is a
much more brutal force—

no cart, all horse; it charges
only forward, carrying nothing
but its own momentum, fast
and hot as lightning

and just as precise—often
pointlessly so: 

only one thing—if it lives
to appreciate it—
is left any different after
it dissipates.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

PRESTO CHANGE-O

What if
the Resurrection didn't
happen presto 
change-o all at once?
What if this last
and best trick of all
was the gift
of open-ended process,
if this longest
of long shots was
still going on?
Think of that lesson—
all the little parochial kids
taught to love things
in increments,
not taught
to keep track, not
to count
blessings only once
they've passed.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

FREE WILL IS AN ILLUSION

They're right when they
say: the world isn't black
and white. But of course,
it's not like it's full-color

either. On the orders
of magnitude which we can
appreciate, everything
is grayscale—the inane details

of the honeymoon itinerary,
each nail-biting second notched
into the shot clock, every
excruciating decision waiting

in line to be made
at every McDonald's drive-thru
on earth—it's all an old photograph
being narrated-over

by a minor celebrity
in a Ken Burns documentary:
before long, a comforting
narrative begins to accrue,

a good little nest egg
of diction accumulates
over this range
of one-to-two options.

Monday, June 17, 2019

HUNCHBACK

It figures—in deference to
the youthful notions of
some warped European, who
then spent the rest of life bent
over his esoteric instruments
in an off-limits laboratory
somewhere in New England,
the whole of space
and time is curved.
Isn't it a little too convenient
to picture—this impossibly
vast and untamable universe
draping itself
all over the earth
in more or less the same
kyphotic posture?

Sunday, June 16, 2019

OVER AND DONE WITH

It seems in life, nothing
is ever quite over
and done with. After a long
yet repetitive week,
Saturday morning keeps
showing up again
with another group-
therapy session, the same
dozen eggs to purchase,
that infernal tub stain to scrub
for the last time, as usual.
We've grown not only tired
but hideous from smiling
so much at this camera.
How much longer, 
we groan, must these same 
scenes keep repeating?
Not that we're in a hurry
to see the movie end—but
we just can't wait until
all the film is gone.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

LOVE IS ALL YOU GET

All you need is love—
which is good, because after
all, love is all you were

going to get, anyway.
Devotion is contagious
(as are smiles and laughter);

it replicates without being told
until it's everywhere
like the spores of a mold.

And hope floats
only on its own notion
(if you ever looked over

the edge, you'd see nothing
but little hope boats
all the way down).

But the same way in which those
positive emotions
just love to build stuff,

there are oceans of other ones
(indifference, doubt,
isolation, for a start)

which love just as much
to come along and
hollow it all out.

Friday, June 14, 2019

LOCUS

Funny—any sunny Friday
afternoon in Chicago,
I'm still able to feel far-off
and murky as the Sargasso.

I can walk by restaurants
chumming with people
clinking bright beverages
on outdoor patios, trying to

find myself in that scenario—
surrounded by mirth,
buoyed by coworkers—
instead of locating

the only sea on earth
which no lands border,
churning circles alone
in the north Atlantic

with algae and muck
welling up from its
center—but no luck;
My focus is garbage,

my rudder stays stuck
on its opacity trick.
Okay, maybe that actually
isn't so funny.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A POEM A DAY

It's like you've got
an open-ended 
apprenticeship 
with Sisyphus;
steady work 
designing stasis—
lifting and dusting 
under air pockets, 
dropping rocks 
precisely where they 
were already, and
parting the waters 
for a nanosecond 
with one frothy swab
of an index finger.
It doesn't pay, but it
makes you feel
busy—and trust me 
when I say this: 
maintaining any feeling 
is a full-time job.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

IN SPITE

Somehow,
in spite of everything—
everything
is always reconciling.

In spite
of what you did,
then didn't
do right after that

taupe skies lighten, then
clear before sunset,
proceeded by a harvest moon's
copacetic light.

In spite of those things
you said that night
and all the times
you failed to be there

in the morning, there's still
the smell of lilacs waiting,
a sparrow's simple song, rolling
dew-bright sod galore.

In spite of your entire
personal history, every
flash flood and furious blizzard
ravaging your background,

a holiday weekend
keeps nosing back around,
like the wet snout of
some mute little animal

who's decided
it needs you, regardless
of how stony or
deadpan you act.

No matter which closet
or attic you've chosen
to sit in, with index
fingers jammed in your ears,

the three-day forecast
still seeps in there
from a portable radio
on the neighbors' back patio,

and damned if it doesn't
still sound pleasant—
or at least
unremarkable.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

I NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN

Hearing a sentence like this
hurts. But I think
by a large margin, the worse
sensation is the seeing
that which we never saw
coming—leaving
again just as suddenly, taking
with it every color,
every outline, every tint or
semblance of the picture
without even giving us
so much as the chance to
scribble a few bullet points
concerning its general
description, in the vain hope
of remembering
it for next time.


Monday, June 10, 2019

THE PROBLEM

I swear I can't look around at this
deteriorated world anymore,
with its overabundance
of chintzy floral prints.

Even at their best, these patterns
tend to invoke a certain
pointlessness—but the problem
only worsens

after they've faded.
Take those bedraggled
poinsettias on your
dishtowels, for instance;

or the mauve roses
in their mauve rows
on the two dusty
armchairs we

found in your attic;
or the discolored daisies
in a picture I'm not
so sure I want languishing

here in my memory
much longer—of your hand-
me-down backless
hospital gown.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

INQUEST

One by one
the burly sun
hauls in
each derelict morning.

Hours
and hours later—
pure darkness
and a little moonlight

take their
turns interrogating
the wearied
deadpan sky:

Just like that—
a whole day—
stolen.

Or perhaps—
gone missing—
by sheer coincidence?

Friday, June 7, 2019

ALTERNATE ROUTE

People don't say: All roads 
lead to Rome much anymore—

not because the import
or accuracy is moot,

but because Rome 
no longer means

just one thing to everyone.
Right now, it's more popular

to declare: Love is love—
but I don't think that one's

exactly true either.
I've been there, and believe me

I tried to do as the Romans do.
I stripped nude and called out to you

from the dark Romanesque shadows
cast by that word,

but I felt stupid, which made you
feel ugly and vulnerable. I swear

I tried so hard to love you
every way I could think to;

I explored every avenue,
tested every alternate route.

But it was no use,
when I tried to explain

these strange new directions—
they didn't make any sense to you.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

THE THINKING BRAIN

     Why do the phenomenon and its preconditions 
     exist in the first place? Why not a different mode 
     of evolution not present on this planet that might 
     have produced a different kind of thinking brain?
     -Edward O. Wilson, The Origins of Creativity 

Ingenious though it is
the thinking brain
has the hardest time conceiving
of its opposite:
a simple star-shaped lump
of flesh
which moves around a lot
but doesn't
accomplish much.
To the mind
the blind utility of muscle
is inconceivable.
And it's probably best
it remains so.
How we could come
to love one another
with just the prerequisite
of taking up space
is a hard enough
puzzle to solve as it is.
If we truly believed
these bodies were real
we wouldn't want
anything to do with ourselves.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

GOD COMPLEX

The ego,
I think, must not be
a temple, since

not even Christ—pissed off
though he is

with a little
harmless competition
from local business—

would willingly wreck his
in the name of salvation.

And really who
could blame him? Look at
how magisterial! the thing is.

But then, think
of all the patents—
held in the name of
somebody else—

that must have been needed
in order to erect it.

No, I think
the ego is more like
one of those
tiny pointed paper cups:

a disposable cone
which can never stand up
on its own

and which gets
overfilled easily—

yet it's always
so startling
when it starts to spill over.

On our humblest
days, we might feel
blessed

by the sensation
of runoff dripping
down on our foreheads.

On all the questionable
rest—anointed.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

CAUTIONARY TALE

In the future—public space
has been banned as
too dangerous 

for nakedly
showcasing the species
at its worst;

without a license, with no
credentials whatsoever,
any creature

in earth's vicinity
who wants to
can observe

the way in which
humans
unfetter themselves

use it
to pieces, like
it's theirs

then—amble off
before the three
bears return.

Monday, June 3, 2019

THE N OF RAIN

The last blast of a storm
hurts less
than the first,
the final drops
nourish more
than the torrents that
came before,
herald the rest
and protection and
quenched thirst
which must precede
all concentration on
hunger or sex—which
in turn, are both
needed to precipitate
growth. Thorn bushes,
dirt, even those inanimate
cracks in the sidewalk
would all assure us
from experience,
if they ever got the chance
to talk: no matter how long
it rains, it stops—
no matter how much
it blows, it won't.

WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS IN THE TWENTY-FIRST-AND-A-HALF CENTURY

Soberly surmising
upon arriving
that he can
never again go home,

the consummate doctor
rolls his old coat sleeves
and proceeds
with his ministry—

knocking with even
greater civility
before entering
each door

in this infinite ward
known as
Public Domain.

So much depends,
he intones over
and over—end of poem.


Saturday, June 1, 2019

AFTER DOUBT

     [A hatching chick] can't afford doubt. Who can? 
     Doubt uses albumen 
     at twice the rate of work.
     —Kay Ryan, "Doubt"

I doubt very much
that brawny doubt
would choose to consume

so many calories
from water and crude lean protein.
At least

for me,
worry and concern
tend to feed on the juicier stuff;

not those jittery
bean-pole aminos—
they go straight for the crystalline

confidence of minerals
warmly suspended
in the reassuring bulk of fat molecules.

When I overthink, it's the yolk
of me that shrinks and pales in color
from its former hale yellow.

At length, though
the poet is correct: all this quibbling
only gets harder

and harder to abide—
while all the while, suspiciously
easier to admit.

In fact, by now simply observing
my own hesitation
is such a catabolic process

that, in order to conserve lean body mass
I must try my best
not to look inside like this.

Friday, May 31, 2019

OH SNAIL

     O snail 
     Climb Mount Fuji 
     But slowly, slowly! 
     -Issa (trans. R.H. Blyth)

Slow and steady
wins the race, I guess
but what if the
race isn't real? No slope,
no sky, it's all
a shell we live inside
as a dreamer
whose vulnerable
mind secretes, in defense,
a fortifying dream.
Will it ever be possible
to succeed
at such a climb—or
to fail? And how
could you tell
the difference? Oh snail,
what the hell?

Thursday, May 30, 2019

PRECIOUS

Every time I said I loved you
was an interest payment
on the truth.

When I told you I needed you
I meant it
as an investment

and investments need protecting.
Every pet name I invented
every darling sweetheart precious

was a password on the account.
And when I'd wax poetic
list all the itty-bitty things I would do

that was me dumping you
out on a table
counting you up like a cartoonish

miser, like a giddy Ebeneezer Scrooge
would do. The sentiment sounded pure.
The aim looked true. The intention

was good—or so I assumed—
as all the gold in the Pharaohs'
airless tombs.

All those times
I'd talk with you, so eager to know
what you'd been up to—

when I held you close
at night and whispered—
when I thundered and roared

like a dragon in a cavern
fiercely guarding
treasures he could never use—

that was me letting you
know I would do
whatever it took

to always be with you.
I was even willing to live all alone
blind as a golem in an

underground cistern
content to bash the brains of fish
against stalagmites every night

for my dinner—if only
I could keep you. I didn't see
how I could lose.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

IN MY HOUSE

In nature, every frill
is useful. Animals' furbelows
go forth and do things;
exaggeration means something
in the discourse of plants.
Guillemots' white bellies
camouflage nicely
against the cloud covered
coastlines of the North Atlantic,
and a certain crazy fuchsia
makes those tropical blossoms
which prefer honeycreepers
inconspicuous to bees.
But indoors, what are all
of our enrichments for?
Quotation marks, arrows, and
huge yellow carets
litter our arid rows of text
like pyramids of fruit arranged
to take up counter space
or fake flowers on the mantle
to make use of the spare vases;
the gaudy color of the
highlighter functions more like
jaundice, signifying the presence
of an underlying disease.
Shiny ornaments on a tree
look pretty, but
they're heavy; and they
stress out the branches.
In my house at least, I think
decorations
just make everything
harder to clean.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

THE ROAD NOT RETAKEN

     I took the one less traveled by,
     And that has made all the difference.

     -Robert Frost

Actually, after Frost did
or did not get lost,
the road not taken
didn't stay open much longer.
Somewhere downtown, in a

marble building's basement,
it was sold for a
song, bulldozed to pieces,
regraded, repaved, covered-
over like a skin lesion.

There's a better-lit bus stop
and a closer-by grocery store
and a high-rise retirement
condominium's auxiliary pick-up
and drop-off lot there now—

and a few people are sad about this
inexorable honing of our
decision-making process, and several
more are happy about it, and the rest
still can't work out the difference.

Monday, May 27, 2019

ONGOING

I'm sure it's no coincidence
that deep down, I'm a homebody—
yet something invisible
careens around this stable nucleus
and relentlessly screams to go

off on vacations. Not to luxurious 
or breathtaking destinations—but
to the unnamed
and the derelict places
where savagery's bygone continuance

now sits silent and disremembered.
A shagged-over bison path
or an abandoned copper mine, for
instance; or a rifleman's lookout post
ruined on the tip of a limestone cliff

so otherwise barren and nonchalant
that what is observed—or should I say
rediscovered there—is nothing
but the luxurious ongoing
of my own breathtaking ignorance.

Friday, May 24, 2019

SECURITY SYSTEM

As an anxious first-time 
homeowner, it really 
eases my mind 

to surround myself 
at all times 
with a few modern conveniences   

which don't exactly work.
It feels high-end when 
I jiggle the handle—I tend to think

duct tape 
is pretty punk rock, and
that Gothic look 

of safety pins 
also smacks of a certain rebelliousness. 
Dead strikers, fickle 

circuits, flattened tires 
propped on bricks—
all perform beautifully

their manifest function
of making me feel like 
less of a jerk.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

THOUGHTS ON A PLANE

Sometimes the sheer
presence of vertical
surfaces around here
closes in on me like it's
some kind of nightmare.

I vastly prefer
the austere look
of the cleared horizontal—
the sheen of morning light
on a completely clean
coffee table, the seat
of a backless desk chair
with no one with no job
perched on it working.

Peculiar, I know. But
I have my reasons.
These things
calm me down, cannot
hide, conceal nothing.
Quiet and attendant,
they always
hold me motionless,
bear noble gravity, and
don't ask questions.

But it's not just the silence
or the cleanliness—I swear,
the orientation of these objects'
planes in space
matters tremendously;

for even a blank wall,
the spotless glare
of a window, the silence
of doors, each concealing
some latent adventure—
all those things seem
to loudly insist
that I'm at the precarious
start of something,

but a clean marble
counter, an empty
kitchen table, a bare rug
stretched out and
sleeping on a polished
hardwood floor—all suggest
without a whisper
that I'm finally here
at the end.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

ZENO'S PARADISE

Since when is fifty-percent
is an F? According to
Zeno, it's the best
you can get. A song
which stalls half-done
is better than one
which never ends. A sun
shining tall at noon
already proclaims the day
a success. And if
no race can ever be won,
once it's half-run, why not pat
yourself on the back, grab
half a banana, and move on.
The only real caveat
to all this, I guess, is
you've got to keep stacking
those failures up:
fifty-percent, then
fifty-percent of what's left,
then fifty-percent of the
fifty-or-so percents
that come next.
I confess, I don't quite
get it myself, and you
may never fully
comprehend it either.
But again: it looks like
we don't ever have to.
At least not entirely.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

X AND Y

These days, it seems like
everything that matters
is actually two things
at the same time.
They say the universe
has two information
states, that it takes two
to tango, and there's
two sides to every story;
but if you look closer
it's even there
in the little things: two
home teams, two
cola companies warring,
two roads diverging
through a wood some-
where, two separate blood
pressure numbers
to remember.

Our systems were built
to process one answer,
but how do we solve
now, for both x and y?
What if, hard as we
try, we can only crack
half of this binary
code while alive?
Do we then die
as we've been living:
crushed by the
shameful weight
of these unattainable
bounties? And doesn't
even that kind
of once-and-for-all sound like
an impossible mix
of definitive
and unsatisfying?

Monday, May 20, 2019

CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE

It can only be
our oldest cruelest faith
which has kept us so poor
in imagination
and yet so rich
in the circumstantial evidence
of pure analogy,
in its association of fine leather
and soft lace
with naughtiness,
of pieces of silver
and men kissing men
and purification in the name
of some higher order
with a bloodthirsty old pirate
playing his best game
of double-cross,
with the gleaming green eyes
of her legendary sexual deception,
with all of old Europe
as a plague pit teeming
with every odd bit
of skeleton you could name.

Friday, May 17, 2019

I DO THE POLICE IN DIFFERENT VOICES

Look at me
talk to you
without even
having to

tap a clammy
tongue against
the backs
of my teeth—hot stuff

and heavy
too if you
ask me: it's like
language

is a time machine
built out of
a DeLorean—
and then

some skinny
poem climbs inside
that loud suit
of armor—and drives.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

LITTLE TRICK

There are days
I desperately
wish to disappear
to transcend the bustling
rooms
of the possible
the stodgy furniture of what already is
to become instead
as a huge doorway swinging
open onto nowhere and nothing
an inconspicuous field
a desolate street at midday
a park with neither
pigeons nor patrons
a perfectly empty alley
then I remember—
I live in the city
where there are no such things—
and just like that
I begin to feel small
and somewhat invisible
and I'm pacified.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

FORGERY

Apropos of the
cold blank
absurdity of the cosmos

the iron in a
blast furnace
gets hotter than the fire;

a few fragmentary
lines, inscribed
after the fact come—with time

to mean
more than the entire
experience.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

WHY I WRITE, MK. II

Because I love to talk—
to give ethereal form
to thoughts

but can't stand the sound
of the yowling
whelps that come out.

Because I once was lost
and embarrassed to
get directions

but now I'm found
and too proud
to acknowledge it.

Because I can never get enough
of the great void opened up
by repetition

but I'm terrified
of that silence which lurks
inside silence.

Because I have
an avian soul—the itinerant brain
of a bird

but the four-
chambered heart
of a nervous old birdwatcher.

Because—how good?
are those little moments
we take time to notice

but—how much better?
must be all those
we miss.

Monday, May 13, 2019

EXPRESSING THE INEXPRESSIBLE

Underneath the impossible glow
of a million-year-old moon

when language first mysteriously
hatched into being

poetry must have emerged
along with it

but still the best way we know
of saying thank you

is to stop
and say thank you.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

EARLY IN THE MORNING

It is a curious thing how
early in the morning
all the world knows
for a moment what it is like
to feel old;

and yet, early in the morning
we who find ourselves
here all together—who rose
or did not rise
who chose or did not choose
to soften in its mild bath of light—

we ourselves comprise
the substance of that new arrival;
we do not flatter the event
we become it—for a second
time, every living creature
every shining thing
is young.


Friday, May 10, 2019

MALCONTENT

Dear downstairs neighbor,
please cut out that racket—
I can hear your dog barking
the clatter of your boot heels
your little children's high pitched squeals
like the raptors from Jurassic Park. 

I constantly smell ridiculous mixtures
of all the elaborate
things you've been cooking—
the french toast in the morning
mingled with stuffed peppers
from last night's dinner
wafting up here while I'm
trying not to eat anything.

It's difficult for me
to focus on my manuscript
to unleash the power of positive thinking
to brood appropriately over my future
when I hear the muffled blare
of Walt Disney's Aladdin—
not to mention all the laughter and
participatory singing.

Come to think of it—
even those lulls
when it's quiet have become
unconstructive; I'm just no good
to fuss over an old poem
dust the undersides of the blinds
clean the whole oven over again

when I'm so distracted by the silence
of your tuckered-out daughters
dozing contentedly
your wife and you sprawled on the
couch drinking wine
or maybe the whole family

down on their knees together
completing some spontaneous
homespun drawing
of what I can only imagine
from upstairs to be
a very respectable freehand circle.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

DRINKING COFFEE AT HOME ALONE

Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Peru—
each morning at seven, I open
a cabinet door, and I visit these places
which I never plan to visit—
whose names themselves
in the Midwest cornfield of my mind
are shaped like tangles of vines
sticky with dew and slung
among mountains of trees, each heavy
with the ripeness of its fruit.
In the chilly spring dawn, i sit
in the kitchen, trying to sip slowly
and listening for the sounds
of those imaginary mountains.
Naively I wander around destitute farms
laid-back cooperatives with chickens
squawking in the background
mechanistic well-fortified compounds
behind walls of concrete, with red
mansions and black limousines
trying to taste the oppression
of a previous season's tyrannical sun
to inhale the totality of time
and space, to smell the weight
of sheer distance traveled
to feel in my mouth the physicality
of chemistry, the bodily existence
of a Maillard reaction
trying to extract hope
trying to provoke awakening
trying to prolong flavor
knowing full-well
but not wanting to believe
I will not recall any of it
one quick swallow later.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

MORNING ROUTINE

Before dawn each day—
impossibly
high, impossibly far away

uncountable
savage blast furnaces
fire

just to power
the weak light
that yawns through

the kitchen window
by which you like
to sit and sip tea

and thumb through a few
pages of Marlowe,
or maybe

sketch a fragment
of your own about
cornflowers—

before the slightest flutter
of one lid
of one eye

pitiless factories
galactic in size: all working
triple-overtime

toward an infinite quota—
completely for free—
just to manufacture

those sanitized
unbreakable
I-beams of time

which later you
will blithely call
small hours.